Micro-influencers drive more sales
If your product is hedonic (e.g. fashion, high-end electronics), promoted posts from small influencers (10k to 100k followers) drive more sales than those of large ones (>1m followers).
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Influencer marketing agencies have published quite a few content marketing pieces that claim that micro-influencers are more effective than macro-influencers (e.g. this article on Forbes or this one on Adweek).
Of course, it’s clearly in their interest to say that - and we have no certainty about the quality of the stats they provide.
But hey, just because it’s sketchy data doesn’t always mean it’s wrong.
Here’s what the peer-reviewed scientific evidence shows (spoiler: they were partially right).
P.S.: Talking about influencers, remember that storytelling friend-like influencers are better at driving sales.
Previous insight: High referral rewards = worse customers (100+ more insights here)
Micro-influencers drive more hedonic products sales than macro-influencers
Impacted metrics: Customer acquisition
Channels: Influencer marketing
For: B2C. Can be tested for B2B
Research date: October 2021
If your product is hedonic (e.g. fashion, high-end electronics, premium hotels, restaurants), micro-influencers are more effective at increasing sales than mega-influencers.
If your product is utilitarian (e.g. basic kitchen appliances, motels), the influencer’s size doesn’t matter.
Micro-influencers (10k to 100k followers) are more persuasive than mega-influencers (more than 1m followers) when they promote products.
The effect only works if the product is hedonic (e.g. a decorative candle) or described as hedonic (focus on the experience and emotions it gives). There is no difference between influencer following sizes if the product is utilitarian (e.g. an insect-repellent candle).
For example, as part of 4 experiments, people
Rated a hot chocolate from Dunkin’ Donuts 11.9% better and said they were 13.3% more likely to buy it when they were told the fictional influencer promoting it had 64,100 followers (vs 6.4 million followers).
Said they were 41.1% more likely to buy a coffee maker that was described as hedonic (“A fancy high-end coffee maker, but hard to use”) if it was promoted by a micro(vs mega)-influencer. There was no difference if the same coffee maker was advertised as utilitarian (“Basic, easy-to-use, reliable coffee maker”)
People’s intention to buy when shown a post promoting chocolate (hedonic) or bottled water (utilitarian) on the Instagram accounts of @negin_mirsalehi (mega-influencer) or @hellorigby (micro-influencer)
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🧠 Why it works
We perceive micro-influencers as more authentic (i.e. original and genuine) than mega-influencers.
That feeling spills over to the product being promoted.
When the brand of a product is more authentic and feels like “the real thing” we like it more and are more likely to buy it.
The researchers did not analyze nano-influencers (less than 10,000 followers) or macro-influencers (between 100,000 and 1 million followers). It’s unclear how authentic each of those feel, but it’s likely a spectrum of fewer followers = more authentic, more followers = less authentic.
This study only looks at the impact of influencers’ follower size on their perceived authenticity, on average. Influencers have different relationships with their audiences and can be more or less authentic no matter their size.
The analysis focused on Instagram. Other platforms were not directly tested.
🏢 Companies using this
Plenty of companies, typically smaller brands, work with micro-influencers. For example:
@didieryhc has promoted Van Houtte Coffee
@nnekaj has promoted Hanahana Beauty
Occasionally, large companies collaborate with micro-influencers. For example:
@miettedierckxhas promoted Coca-Cola
⚡ Steps to implement
If your product is hedonic or you describe it as hedonic, choose the influencers you will work with based on your campaign objectives.
If you are looking to simply grow awareness, working with mega-influencers may still be the easiest option.
If you are looking to grow sales or improve perceptions of your product, micro-influencers are more effective.
🔍 Study type
Lab and online experiment
Park, J., Lee, J. M., Xiong, V. Y., Septianto, F., & Seo, Y. (October 2021). David and Goliath: When and Why Micro-Influencers Are More Persuasive Than Mega-Influencers. Journal of Advertising.
Sungkyunkwan University, University of Auckland, and University of Queensland. South Korea, New Zealand, and Australia
Remember: This is a new scientific discovery. In the future it will probably be better understood and could even be proven wrong (that’s how science works). It may also not be generalizable to your situation. If it’s a risky change, always test it on a small scale before rolling it out widely.
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Mere exposure (in any form) is one of the biggest bias in marketing (big numbers= high power= high results). Small influcers have higher credibility and a trusted network. Trust and credibility are "the value" for any brand, expecially when you want to take people at the last stages of the purchase funnel.
Interesting research, Thomas. How did they measure "intention to buy"? Also, do you know of any B2B studies in this area?
Further, from the interviews I've conducted, I would hypothesize <1000 follower profiles spreading the word about a product to their (more direct) peers may be very impactful at later buying stages (rather than awareness stages, where mega influencers can make you similarly aware). What do you think?